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English Literature


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A sense of beauty or an appreciation of artistic expression. For example, some poems might be aesthetically pleasing because of their sound, rhyme and rhythm and those poems might or might not be intellectually pleasing as well, depending on the meaning readers take from them. If we appreciate the way a text has been put together, for example, its language, its style, its tone, its use or adaptation of generic conventions etc., then we are possibly focusing on the aesthetic qualities of the text. If we focus on the meaning or the theme or the ideology or our reading of the text, then we are possibly focusing on the intellectual rather than the aesthetic. Of course, many would argue that the aesthetic and the intellectual are inseparable.
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In general terms, the term, ‘discourse’ refers to the language or terminology used in the discussion of a subject or field of study. For example, the terms defined in this glossary belong to a literary discourse; laws about contracts belong to a legal discourse; a debate about the best ways to remove a skin cancer belongs to a medical discourse. Within literary theory, it is argued that meaning is constructed through discourse, that nothing has any meaning outside of discourse. Every idea belongs to at least one discourse. For example, it would be reasonable to conclude that some ‘nature’ poems and their themes belong to a discourse of ecological sustainability. Discourses are involved in the distribution of social power, favouring different people, institutions and ideologies. For example, a discourse condoning the expansion of an empire favours some people and institutions over others; it has a very different language and ideology from a post-colonial discourse.Discourse
If writers or texts frequently represent an idea or group of people in a certain stereotypical way, then readers might assume that that’s the way things are. Readers might jump to the conclusion that it is ‘natural’ to think of that idea in that way or for that group of people to behave that way. For example, if Australians are always represented as uneducated and loudmouthed, then readers might come to expect those characteristics of Australians or Australian characters in texts. The characteristics have become ’naturalised’. When we assume that a particular representation of a group of people is ‘natural’ or that their behaviour is ‘natural’, we are probably forgetting that their behaviour is ‘cultural’, as in belonging to a particular culture or sub-culture and that there is nothing ‘natural’ about it at all. See Moon’s chapter on the culture/nature binary.Naturalise